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1. The appointment of the office of the gospel ministry. For this commission which Christ gives to his apostles, in the most essential parts of it, belongs to all ministers; and the apostles, by virtue of it, were ministers or elders of the church.
2. Here is something peculiar in this commission of the apostles, viz. to go forth from one nation to another, preaching the gospel in all the world. The apostles had something above what belonged to their ordinary character as ministers; they had an extraordinary power of teaching and ruling, which extended to all the churches; and not only all the churches which then were, but all that should be to the end of the world by their ministry. And so the apostles were, as it were, in subordination to Christ, made foundations of the Christian church. See Eph. ii. 20, and Rev. xxi. 14.
3. Here is an appointment of Christian baptism. This ordinance indeed had a beginning before ; John the Baptist and Christ both baptized. But now especially by this institution is it established as an ordinance to be upheld in the Christian church to the end of the world. The ordinance of the Lord’s supper had been established before, just before Christ's crucifixion.
IV. The next thing to be observed, is the enduing the apostles, and others, with extraordinary and miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost ; such as the gift of tongues, the gift of healing, of prophecy, &c. The Spirit of God was poured out in great abundance in this respect ; so that not only ministers, but a very great part of the Christians through the world were endued with them, both old and young ; not only officers, and more honorable persons, but the meaner sort of people, servants and handmaids, were commonly endued with them, agreeable to Joel's prophecy, Joel ii. 28, 29, of which prophecy the Apostle Peter takes notice, that it is accomplished in this dispensation, Acts ii. 16.
How wonderful a dispensation was this . Under the Old Testament, but few had such honors put upon them by God. Moses wished that all the Lord's people were prophets, Numb. xi. 29; whereas Joshua thought it much that Eldad and Medad prophesied. But now we find the wish of Moses
fulfilled. And this continued in a very considerable degree to the end of the apostolic age, or the first hundred years after the birth of Christ, which is therefore called the age of miracles. This was a great means of the success of the gospel in that age, and of establishing the Christian church in all parts of the world ; and not only in that age, but in all ages to the end of the world : For Christianity being by this means established through so great a part of the known world by miracles, it was after that more easily continued by tradition ; and then, by means of these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, the apostles, and others, were enabled to write the New Testament, to be an infallible rule of faith and manners to the church, to the end of the world. And furthermore, these miracles stand recorded in those writings as a standing proof and evidence of the truth of the Christian religion to all ages. V. The next thing I would observe is the revealing those glorious doctrines of the gospel fully and plainly, which had under the Old Testament been obscurely revealed. The doctrine of Christ's satisfaction and righteousness, his ascension and glory, and the way of salvation, under the Old Testament, were in a great measure hid under the vail of types and shadows and more obscure revelations, as Moses put a vail on his face to hide the shining of it; but now the vail of the temple is rent from the top to the bottom ; and Christ, the antitype of Moses, shines: The shining of his face is without a vail ; 2 Cor. iii. 12, 13, and 18. Now these glorious mysteries are plainly revealed, which were in a great measure kept secret from the foundation of the world, Eph. iii. 3, 4, 5 ; Rom. xvi. 25. “According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest;” and Col. i. 26. “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages, and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” Thus the Sun of righteousness, after it is risen from under the earth, begins to shine forth clearly, and not only by a dim reflection as it did before. Christ, before his death, revealed many things more clearly than ever they had been revealed Vol. II. 2 H
in the Old Testament; but the great mysteries of Christ’s redemption, and reconciliation by his death, and justification by his righteousness, were not so plainly revealed before Christ's resurrection. Christ gave this reason for it, that he would not put new wine into old bottles; and it was gradually done after Christ’s resurrection. In all likelihood, Christ much more clearly instructed them personally after his resurrection, and before his ascension ; as we read that he continued with them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom, Acts i. 3 ; and that “he opened their understandings, that they might understand the scriptures,” Luke xxiv. 45. But the clear revelation of these things was principally after the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, agreeable to Christ’s promise, John xvi. 12, 13. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all truth.” This clear revelation of the mysteries of the gospel, as they are delivered, we have chiefly through the hands of the Apostle Paul, by whose writings a child may come to know more of the doctrines of the gospel, in many respects, than the greatest prophets knew under the darkness of the Old Testament. Thus we see how the light of the gospel, which began to dawn immediately after the fall, and gradually grew and increased through all the ages of the Old Testament, as we observed as we went along, is now come to the light of perfect day, and the brightness of the sun shining forth in his unvailed glory. VI. The next thing that I would observe, is the appointment of the office of deacons in the Christian church, which we have an account of in the 6th chapter of the Acts, to take care for the outward supply of the members of Christ's church, and the exercise of that great Christian virtue of charity. VII. The calling, and qualifying, and sending the Apostle Paul. This was begun in his conversion as he was going to Damascus, and was one of the greatest means of the success of Christ's redemption that followed: For this success was more by the labors, preaching, and writings of this Apostle, than all the other apostles put together. For, as he says,
i Cor. xv. 10, he “laboured more abundantly than they all ;” so his success was more abundant than that of them all. As he was the apostle of the Gentiles, so it was mainly by his ministry that the Gentiles were called, and the gospel spread through the world ; and our nation, and the other nations of Europe, have the gospel among them chiefly through his means; and he was more employed by the Holy Ghost in revealing the glorious doctrines of the gospel by his writings, for the use of the church in all ages, than all the other apostles taken together. VIII. The next thing I would observe, is the institution of ecclesiastical councils, for deciding controversies, and ordering the affairs of the church of Christ, of which we have an account in the 15th chapter of Acts. IX. The last thing I shall mention under this head, is the committing the New Testament to writing. This was all written after the resurrection of Christ; and all written, either by the apostles, or by the evangelists, who were companions of the apostles. All the New Testament was written by the apostles themselves, excepting what was written by Mark and Luke, viz. the gospels of Mark and Luke, and the book of the Acts of the Apostles. He that wrote the gospel of Mark, is supposed to be he whose mother was Mary, in whose house they were praying for Peter, when he, brought out of prison by the angel, came and knocked at the door ; of which we read, Acts xii. 12. “And when he had considered the thing he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose sirname was Mark, where many were gathered together, praying.” He was the companion of the apostles Barnabas and Saul: Acts xv. 37 . “ And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose sirname was Mark.” He was Barnabas's sister'sson, and seems sometimes to have been a companion of the Apostle Paul : Col. iv. 10. “ Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas; touching whom ye received commandment: If he come unto you receive him.” The apostles seem to have made great account of him, as appears by those places, and also by Acts xii. 25. “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, and took with them John, whose sirname was Mark ;” and Acts xiii. 5. “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they had also John to their minister ;” and, 2 Tim. iv. 11. “Only Luke is with me : Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” This Luke, who wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, was a great companion of the Apostle Paul. He is spoken of as being with him in the last mentioned place, and speaks of himself as accompanying him in his travels in the history of the Acts; and therefore he speaks in the first person plural, when speaking of Paul's travels, saying, We went to such and such a place: We set sail : We launched from such a place ; and landed at such a place. He was greatly beloved by the Apostle Paul : He is that beloved physician spoken of, Col. iv. 14. The Apostle ranks Mark and Luke among his fellow laborers, Philemon, 24. “ Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellow laborers.” The rest of the books were all written by the apostles themselves. The books of the New Testament are either historical, or doctrinal, or prophetical. The historical books are the writings of the four evangelists, giving us the history of Christ and his purchase of redemption, and his resurrection and ascension; and the Acts of the Apostles, giving an account of the great things by which the Christian church was first established and propagated. The doctrinal books are the epistles. These, most of them, we have from the great Apostle Paul. And we have one prophetical book, which takes place after the end of the history of the whole Bible, and gives an account of the great events which were to come to pass, by which the
work of redemption was to be carried on to the end of the world.
All these books are supposed to have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, excepting those which were written by the Apostle John, who lived the longest of all the apostles, and wrote what he wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem, as is supposed. And to this beloved disciple it was that Christ revealed those wonderful things which were to